Join Konrad Eek for an in-depth discussion in this video Installing the enlarger and setting up the dry work station, part of Analog Photography: Setting Up a Home Darkroom.
- What you see here is the dry station in our home dark room. We started work on this earlier today by assembling the table you see that everything is resting upon. It was two pieces of laminated shelving material that we cut to a length of 60 inches and glued them together. The laminate comes finished on three sides with one raw side and so I glued the two raw edges together right here in the center line. I then put a band clamp around it to apply pressure on that joint and tightened the band clamp to the point where we actually saw it glue start to be squeezed out of the joint.
At that point I knew I had really good solid content between the glued surfaces. Particle board particularly absorbs a lot of glue so you want to use a generous amount knowing that you'll have some time to wipe it off the laminate surface when you're done with this part of the process. Once the band clamps were in place we put three cross pieces on the underside and put then in with screws. During that step we couldn't use glue because while it would work on the raw wood surface of the cross pieces, it would not penetrate the laminated surface of the shelving material.
So, glue was no good. We had to do it strictly with screws. One key too in the position of these cross pieces, I very carefully measured the outer edges of the washer and dryer and the exact center line of the washer and dryer and we put the cross braces at those points so it would rest very, in a very stable and secure manner on the washer and dryer, and you can see this is, you can't even budge this. A very stable table surface is really important for success in enlarging.
Once the screws were in place we covered the screw holes with a grip material. It's an adhesive backed really dense foam that accomplished two things. We made sure the screws were a little bit below the wood's surface but it protected whatever the table was gonna rest upon from any possibility of scratching by the wood or perhaps the little bur on one of the screws. Padding serves two purposes. One, it helps stabilize it if there is any inconsistency in the height that they're mounting but it also makes it very solid and secure.
This is really pretty and movable right now. Which is very important. Any sort of vibration that occurs when you're doing an enlargement can cause a loss of focus and essentially force you to discard a piece of paper. And as you go farther with this process you'll realize every time you throw a piece of paper in the trash it hurts just a little bit. So, once the gluing and the screwing of the backing boards was done we turned it over so it was right-side up and went in and painted the ends with a pigmented shellac which effectively works as a water seal and then this center seam we did crisscross brush strokes to work the shellac into the center seam all the way down the length of the seam and when it had a moment to dry we want back over it with a damp rag and cleaned away all the shellac that was on the surface of the laminate and it left us with a very clean working table surface.
If you don't necessarily have the carpentry skills to put something together like this there's lots of alternatives. You can go to the lumber yard and get a piece of three quarter inch plywood cut down to the exact size you needed and then put a couple of coats of good paint on it to seal it well. Make sure you have an A surface or sanded surface plywood and that will keep it nice and smooth once the paint is on there. We had a really deep enlarger baseboard here which forced this into a pretty wide table to support it.
If you had a smaller enlarger you can even buy a pre-made counter top. You can buy, there are rolled formica, or you have a built in backsplash and a soft curved front and they typically run about 22 inches in depth which would handle a lot of enlargers and then you have a nice, clean work surface that you can mount quite easily in different situations. If you're working with a table with legs just make sure they're very, very solid. You don't want any kind of shape or vibration in your table.
Once we got the tabletop in place we brought our enlarger in and we placed it in the gap we had in between the two shelves here. We connected our enlarging timer to the electrical outlet we discussed earlier that's behind the unit. We've connected the enlarger to the timer and you can see when we power up we've got juice there. The focus light works. And the timer is working. You can see that it comes on and cuts itself off. The easel is in place and the other thing I like about this work surface particularly is its scale allows me to lay out the rest of the tools that I'm gonna need when we get ready to make an enlargement.
I've got a folio of negatives right here. I have my contrast filters, my printing paper, the grain focuser, the dust-off for cleaning the negative once it's in the machine, and then a stack of cards here that I can use for burning and dodging, white on one side and black on the other to make sure they're opaque. And then the chopsticks and some black tape to make any dodging tools we might need. So, this is really our garage station where we'll do the actual enlargement. The start of the whole darkroom process.
In this course, photographer and educator Konrad Eek builds on his Shooting and Processing Black-and-White Film course to show the equipment, steps, and techniques involved in setting up a darkroom and making your own prints. From essential gear and setup considerations to processing techniques, this course is a complete introduction to the pleasures of black-and-white printing.